The Active Reader
Unlocking Literacy Since 1996
Frequently Asked Questions
Can dyslexia be prevented?
The short answer is YES... to varying degrees. This depends on numerous factors, including co-existing conditions, age of intervention, and efficacy of intervention. Stay tuned for more on this, but in the meantime, this is a link to a relevant article: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/08/080821110412.htm
Dyslexia can be reversed? Really?
You may have read that dyslexia can't be "cured," and while it is true that there are in-born neurological structures that are different in the dyslexic brain, new research into neuroplasticity reveals that intensive intervention actually rewires the brain. This is more challenging in older readers, but not impossible - we now know that the brain continues to change throughout a lifetime. That said, there are degrees of severity along the dyslexia continuum. For some, effective intervention really can basically reverse the symptoms of dyslexia; for others, success will be less dramatic, and reading will always present some degree of difficulty. But it doesn't need to be debilitating and it absolutely does not have to stand in the way of success. In fact, I believe, along with many others, that when students don't read easily, it builds other skills that may not be as well developed in typical kids. Just as blind people often have a more highly developed senses hearing or smell, struggling readers my have superior abilities in terms of creativity, tenacity, intuition, humor... Paradoxically, obstacles are often the root of success.
What's the difference between "tutoring" and "dyslexia therapy"?
As you research reading intervention programs, you probably (hopefully!)have been told only to work with certified dyslexic interventionists. This is excellent advice! You don't want to waste time or money, and traditionally trained English or literacy teachers, even those with special endorsements, are often untrained in how to address dyslexia. Dyslexia is a mysterious condition, and traditional instruction simply doesn't work as an intervention.
In order to make meaningful progress, you do need someone who specializes in dyslexia intervention. A skilled practitioner needs to have an in-depth knowledge of the structure of the English language, including morphology and syntax, as well as comprehensive knowledge of the English language's multi-layered and challenging alphabetic code. And then they have to know how to effectively teach that information so the dyslexic student - who already has a fundamental deficit in the ability to discriminate and map sounds onto symbols - can master it without getting overwhelmed. It's no small feat.
Over the past twenty years, I've been able discover the most effective strategies, and am constantly refining my instructional methods. Irecently completed a 100 hour supervised practicum in Orton-Gilligham based intervention example, but that's just a small portion of what I bring to the table. For example, teaching emergent (four year-olds) taught me how to break complex tasks into tiny, incremental units, while working with high schoolers taught me structural comprehension strategies I have seen nowhere else.
Professional training in F.A.S.T phonics (my favorite Structured Literacy program so far) taught me how to integrate explicit, multisensory, systematic phonics instruction with authentic texts, while my work as a clinician at Lindamood-Bell I learned how to use tongue and lip placement as a kinesthetic path to fluency.
Twenty years of experience has given me quite an extensive arsenal of strategies I can deploy as needed, and every day I learn something new from the best teachers I could ask for -- my students.
What causes dyslexia?
There are, of course, many reasons why is harder for some students to than for others. But for some readers, there is a fundamental disconnect between how the brain processes sounds (phonemes) and the symbols that represent those sounds (graphemes; aka "letters'). This disconnect cannot be easily addressed with even the best phonics program, or the most enthusiastic teacher; it takes time to build those neural connections, as well as in-depth knowledge of the alphabetic code, and the structure of written English.
Our language is gramatically and orthographically complex, arising from several languages, and evolving over centuries. While some kids intuit the patterns inherent in language, for others, it seems completely without rhyme or reason. Sadly, some types of instruction only deepen that confusion. For example, too much focus on memorizing sight words, without explaining the logic behind spelling, can give students the impression that they have to memorize every word in the English language. Can you imagine how that would feel? Perhaps you can.